Ordination: “I found Fluency but not roar”

rick

Today is the forty-first anniversary of my ordination to the Christian ministry. It is hard to believe that such time has gone by.

When I was a young man I became friends with the minister and poet Arnold Kenseth. I have written about him here. But this poem of his on ordination always seem to strike the right notes of humility and awe about what it means to be a minister.

Ordination

I was anointed. A fire. Yes, I tell you.
An adazzle. His rare thump numbed me, awed
Me down to size and up to Him. Prayed, pawed
By the laying on of hands, myself anew
And aloft; I became lion to roar Him,
Eagle to lift Him, donkey to bear Him. I,
In that sunburst, languaged with seraphim,
Promised myself to be (Ha!) His emissary.

I did not, friends, manage much. True, I found
Fluency, but not roar. I have been sparrow;
And though jackass as most, I could not be least
Even for Him. He was scarlet and vast
And radiant and restful. He sang such sound
I heard the earth unloose itself from sorrow.

(Arnold Kenseth, Seasons and Sceneries, Windhover Press, 2002)

“Hinge Time”

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” —Ecclesiastes 3:1

northern-lightsSeptember always feels to me to be a new beginning. It marks time like a turning hinge, from summer to fall, from then to now, and from now to “what now?”

September’s cool weather reminds me of one memorable day back in 1982. We lived in Maine on a farm. We had a new baby, our first child, and we were in transition. I was about to take a new job and we would soon be moving to a new state.

It was Labor Day weekend, and my Dad and his wife Virginia (my mother died in 1967) had come up to see the new grandchild.

That night we went down the road to the next small town to eat, nothing fancy, but good Maine summer fare: steamers, lobster, sugar and butter corn, some blueberry pie.

Driving home I noticed a spectacular display of the Northern Lights. When we arrived we took some lawn-chairs and sat silently in the dark for an hour, watching this extraordinary display of God’s grandeur. I have never seen anything like it, before or since.

I took it all in, the sky, my family, my wife and new child. Life was good if a bit uncertain. That day was a hinge time for me.

It was my Dad’s last September for he died the next July. These rare moments God gives us when life seems especially good are to be embraced and remembered. Like this great September weather they only last so long.

Prayer: For the gift of life and the promise of eternal life, we give you thanks, O God.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotional for September 4, 2016. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here.)

Rick’s Blackened Red Snapper

Red SnapperThe late great Paul Prudhomme, who died last year, brought Cajun cookery to national attention with his 1984 classic Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. His most iconic recipe was “blackened redfish.” Redfish was a humble fish that suddenly was in high demand. His recipe called for scorching high heat. I made it several times and it was delicious, but set off the fire alarms.

I bought some beautiful Red Snapper today from my friend Mike Mazzeo at Guido’s Marketplace and wondered how to cook it without smoking up the kitchen.

After some research I found a kinder, gentler version of Prudhomme’s recipe on-line from Mario Batali using the Red Snapper, which is a really great fish no matter how you make it.

So I made it tonight with a few of my own tweaks and it came out great, and didn’t set off the fire alarms. I have an ancient 10-inch cast iron skillet, which works like a charm. Once you make the spice mixture, the rest is just keeping an eye on the heat of your pan.

If you don’t like hot and spicy food this one is probably not for you (though if you substitute more Paprika for the Cayenne you can make it less hot.) This recipe is for two, but can be doubled by doing more batches. Add more oil and butter before starting a new batch.

Cajun Seasoning Mixture:

1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Ground White Pepper
1 Teaspoon Paprika (I used Smoked Paprika because I love it)
1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano

2 6-8 ounce fresh Red Snapper fillets about ½ inch to ¾ inch thick.

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil.
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter.

Heat a cast iron pan over medium high heat until it is hot and add the oil and butter. When the butter foams, dredge the fish fillets in the spice mixture and put them in the pan skin side down.

Cook for five minutes. Turn the fish and cook for another minute.

Remove and serve with lemon wedges.

(Photo: R.L. Floyd, 2016)

“Turning the World Upside Down”

“When the mob could not find Paul and Silas, they dragged some believers before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also.’” Acts 17:6

WorldPaul and Silas got in big trouble in Thessalonica. Paul preached for several days, explaining that Jesus was the Messiah and that he had to suffer and die. Many listeners were convinced and followed them.

But there was backlash. Luke writes, “They formed a mob and set the city in an uproar.” They said, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also.”

They didn’t mean it as a compliment, but “turning the world upside down” is exactly what the Good News about Jesus did that day.

And when I look around at our world today I long for it to be “turned upside down.” I wonder what would it take for us to be accused of “turning the world upside down?”

What if we told of God’s radical reconciling love for the whole world that we know in Jesus? What if we told of Jesus’s concern for the poor, his acceptance of sinners, his embrace of outsiders, and his forgiveness of enemies? What if we told how he said to turn the other cheek and walk the second mile?

What if we told how Jesus told us to choose love, not hate, to choose faith not fear? What would it take?

Prayer: Your world needs turning upside down, O God, and we can’t do it without you. Give us the courage to cause some uproar on behalf of the world you love.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotional for August 19, 2016. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here.)

 

We Glorify Your Name, O God!

TyringhamWe Glorify Your Name, O God.
C.M.

We glorify your name, O God,
Through Christ, your Word made flesh.
We worship, listen for your Word,
To hear your Good News fresh.

You gather us to be made one,
You call us each by name,
We grow in Christ, your own dear Son,
We care for each the same.

You send us forth your sheep to feed,
Your grace and gifts employ,
To share our faith by word and deed,
To spread peace, love and joy.

We teach your truth to grow the mind
Of people young and old.
To live and learn, to seek and find,
Your story must be told.

We serve our neighbors in your name,
Ones we know and others.
From near and far they’re all the same,
Our sisters and brothers.

All praise and honor come your way,
The Father and the Son.
And Holy Spirit, each new day,
Until the worlds are done.

©Richard L. Floyd, 2004

(I wrote this in 2004 based on the Mission Statement of the congregation I was serving at the time. Like many of my hymn texts it is “open,” which means it is not attached to any particular tune. It is in Common Meter and can be plugged into any C.M. tune. If you try it and like it let me know which tune you have used.

Photo: R. L. Floyd, 2016. The Appalachian Trail at Tyringham Cobble, MA)

“Respecting the Mystery of God” A Devotional on Ezekiel 1:28

Gloaming“This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” —Ezekiel 1:28b

Bill Holladay, my former Old Testament professor, liked to remind his students of the modesty of the descriptions of God in the Bible. For example, the passage above never comes right out and pictures God. Rather Ezekiel describes “something about” God that is several steps removed. Notice that it is not “the appearance“ of God, nor “the likeness” of God, not even “the glory” of God. Instead the prophet says, “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory” of God.

Even though Ezekiel had just described an extraordinary (and wild) vision he didn’t want to claim too much in describing God. He stretched human language about as far as it can go while still respecting the essential mystery of God.

Bill Holladay died recently so I pulled one of his books off my shelf and I came across this little gem: “It would not be too extreme to say that studying theology is learning how to say the least wrong thing about God.”

The wisdom of maintaining this modesty in our claims about God respects the mystery of God, whose vast eternity is beyond even our best human comprehension.

Prayer: Glorious God, help us always to love you, but to never claim to know more about you than we should. We thank you for the glimpses of your Divine nature you have given to us, especially in Jesus, in whose name we pray.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotional for August 4, 2016. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Phot: R.L. Floyd, 2016.)

“Rich in Things and Poor in Soul” A Sermon on Luke 12:13-21

self storageI don’t know about you, but I have too much stuff. Eleven years ago we moved from a sixteen-room house (a big old parsonage) to an eight-room house. Before we moved we had a huge yard sale. Still, it was a good two years before we could put both our cars into the two-car garage. This may sound like what my daughter calls a “first world-problem,” and it is!

We Americans have too much stuff, and it is not good for our souls. I grew up in a middle-class American family of five. We had a one-level ranch house with three bedrooms, two of them very small, with small closets. My brother and I shared a bunk bed. We had a one-car garage. Our house was built on a concrete slab, so there was no basement. We had an attic, just a crawl space, and my Dad had to climb up there every year to get the Christmas tree stand. Not much room to store stuff.

How things have changed! Look at the four square feet around you. That is the per-capita share of the American self-storage industry, according to the Self-Storage Association, a trade group. They say that “the country now possesses some 1.875 billion square feet of personal storage. All this space is contained in nearly 40,000 facilities owned and operated by more than 2,000 entrepreneurs, including a handful of publicly traded giants like Public Storage, Storage USA, and Shurgard.” (From Slate, “Self-Storage Nation” by Tom Vanderbilt) Continue reading